Women: Am I Missing Something?

Back again. After another weekend internet-off-line but family-on-line. i found a wifi spot this morning near Sainsbury’s in Wathamstow and sucked in my email. Thanks to all of you for your comments and your commitment to me. I am honored. I knew something was up when I had a number of emails apologizing for harsh comments (and some that reinforced them). Well, I just read them all – please know that i am honored you feel the freedom to be honest and say what you like.

The issue at hand: Woman/Girls. I have been weighed and found wanting. My use of the word “girl” was taken my many as a negative connotation. Rehab is suggested. I am very open to learning. Please continue to teach me.

Firstly, my apology. My use of the word “girl” was to highlight the fact that God chooses and uses really YOUNG females. I was addressing age-discrimination, (something I know a lot about firsthand) rather than tackling gender-discrimination (something i not experienced). God choose young boys (David, Samuel) and girls (little orphan Esther) to change the course of history. He has done this and is continuing to do so.
No offence intended, nor any desire to stimulate discussion. In fact the opposite is true – I have been trying to write my on-line book and dont actually want any action on my blog right now.

If such a large number of you dont like the word “girl”, then i will stop using it in a general sense and instead say “teenager” or “young woman” for those in their twenties. What about younger than teens? (I have four daughters that fit this category) Could I still call my daughters and their peers “girls”, or would that still create offense? You tell me and I can change my language, but this is my fear: that I will downgrade the works of God by suggesting a level of age and maturity that is not yet there. I have seen the spiritual abuse of churches who make young people wait too long before they act on God’s call. They would rather have them turn up and sign up instead of go out and change the world. This is my story. I left at 21 to be a “missionary” overseas. My church felt bad that they had never asked me to do anything substantial. The week I left was when they asked me to lead the prayer for communion bread (or was it the wine?). I was too young and immature to do more on a Sunday morning for them. I went from that to immediately preaching in churches at at youth rallies all over Asia, Europe and Latin America. I found that i was older than many of the pastors who were still in their teens. I found out quickly that God’s players outside are mainly young.

My message: Don’t let people tell you that you are too young. Don’t wait for age before you obey God’s call on your life.

But another important issue has been raised. Gender oppression. I dont know a lot about this but would like to learn. Neither do I have anything really profound to say at teh moment. You could teach me. I would love to hear your stories, in particular
1) What has God called you to do?
2) Have you been hindered from doing this simply because you are female?
3) Have you passed through these roadblocks and how?
4) How can others like you also remove these obstacles
5) What would you say to me as a man and a ministry leader?

Forgive me also for not speaking out for those oppressed in ministry circles because of their gender. I know God has given my a voice at this moment in history, and I pray that i will be like Jesus and use that voice to bring justice.

Maybe i need your help. Gender discrimination does not seem to be a significant element in the emerging missional church networks that I am currently involved in. Yes, I come across it when I speak at more traditional events and at conferences set up by modern institutions, and on occasion I speak out. But my experience in the global emerging church movement and the new apostolic thrust is that women are at the forefront of what God is doing and are not held back because of their gender.
Am i right? I don’t know.
Am I blind or skewed because i am a male? Probably.
Am I missing something? Quite possibly.
Let me explain my situation and then, if you like, you can suggest ways for me to learn and grow.

I work overseas in what many would call a “missionary” or “missiologist” role. My gifting is apostolic and i seek out others with the same gifting, people who God is raising up to spearhead church planting movements in new cultures and new worlds where there is a crying need. Those people are both men and women, boys and . . . younger women.

1. Women are traditionally a majority in my field. I read once that a hundred years ago, the only two disciplines/careers where women could go as far as they wanted were nursing and missions. Many mission societies have operated on a 7:1 ratio – 7 women to every one man. While I am thankful that the ration is more balanced in my experience, I still see more women than men hearing God’s voice to leave their homes and join this pilgrimage/quest. I have asked the question before and ask it again? Where are the men?
(Not that I necessarily prefer to work with men.)
Last year a team of 16 (including my family) walked part of the Santiago de Competella pilgrimage trail in Spain. There were 4 males in that team, including myself and my son. I wish more men would come.

2. Ask me about the new generation of apostles and I will end up talking about the huge number of women that I work alongside.
Not just China (where 80% of the one million church starting evangelists are female) but all over the West as well.
When i think of Berlin, I think of Kerstin Hack.
Italy? Talk to Annilee and her daughter.
San Francisco? Behind the emerging church scene you will find Linda Bergquist.
Bela Rus? A women comes to mind, not a man.
Texas? Talk to Shannon Hopkins who was also the leader behind the Wabi Sabi event last year. With Jessica’s help, of course. And Wabi Sabi England had Bea Marshall take the lead with her husband.

So, here is my problem. My vision is skewed, partly because I am a man, and partly because I look around me at the players in God’s new global church-space and I SEE FEMALES. I will soon be calling for summer pilgrims to come and serve overseas this summer – and I expect the past trend of more females than males to continue.
Where are the men?

Maybe this is part of God’s plan. Women have giftings in the apostolic area that men do not. I celebrate the fact that God is placing women in the most strategic places and I pray that God will give us all eyes to see what He is doing. And in places where women are held back or dishonored, I pray that God will allow men to be less male and more like Jesus.

[back-blog feb 25.2004]The last sentence is wrong. Jesus was full male and men should fully embrace their masculinity in a godly way.

Your comments are valuable. They represent stories. Please keep teaching us. Keep teaching me.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

28 Comments

  • I got my wife to read your previous post, and few other women, and they found nothing offensive and read it as you talking about age issues amongst women, with no reference to male female issues. But thanks for the response.
    Jase

  • The “Girls” Discussion Matures

    Rachelle has done the first of her “educational” posts for men in the emerging church so we do a better job of not stepping on the women. Here’s my response, that I left as a comment on her blog:Well said….

  • The “Girls” Discussion Matures

    Rachelle has done the first of her “educational” posts for men in the emerging church so we do a better job of not stepping on the women. Here’s my response, that I left as a comment on her blog:Well said….

  • Just as I thought.
    Just as I took it.
    A praise to the emerging God girl movement.
    I was taken back by the backlash, I took the whole post as a massive high five to the ladies and a kick in the butt to the guys.
    This response is amazing, I salute you brother and pray for such a soft and wise tongue for myself.
    In my world as a youth pastor: Girls Rock!

  • Gender and Age… I hate that it is an issue at all. My wife is just as much pastor as I am, yet I seem to be the one that everybody on the outside knows and associates with our ministry. It can sometimes be a constant frustration for us, as she seems to be constantly passed over. I suppose it’s really bad in USAmerican culture, especially when it comes to churches. Somehow, I am the one recognized all the time, while she is “just the wife”. She, in my opinion, tends to pastor and lead more than I do.
    As far as the age thing in ministry, it seems to be a big issue here as well. While neither age or gender are much of a problem in the emerging church, I’ve noticed that outside of that it is a big issue. We just had a 14 year old who got set in his mind to put on our recent concert event, and he ended up coordinating the most awesome concert we’ve had in the past 8 years. We didn’t even think once about his age, at least not until people started saying that they couldn’t believe that we let a 14 year old put it all together. It was his idea! It was his work that made it happen! And it was incredible! Better than we have ever done before.
    I”m not sure if I will ever understand the discrimination issues in ministry. Age nor Gender seem to have any special respect when it comes to God or calling. Anyone can have an incredible anointing, just as well as anyone can have a lot of problems and immaturity. –sorry for the rant; it’s all a little too close to home for me right now.

  • kind words, andrew. thank you.
    i’m starting my own rehab at the urging of new dear friends. perhaps we can begin anew together. replies to your thoughtful questions to come.
    eating humble pie,
    jen

  • I’m amazed by how much it means to hear a person’s story. Your history legitimizes your comments, Andrew. Thanks for taking the time to write it.
    May I say that, in the context of your story, your attitude does not suck after all. Far from it. Thank you for being willing to face the fire with humility. You will never know how much it helps.

  • Little Miss-Communication

    Are internet communications more likely to be misunderstood than other mediums of dialogue? I’ve been the surprised onlooker over the last few days of a debate that flared up on tallskinnykiwi.com, the blog by Andrew Jones that I frequent from…

  • I wasn’t going to check out your blog again for a while, because I didn’t want to be tempted to make another less than constructive comment, as I always regret it later. But Jen e-mailed me about your post, and I’m glad she did. Thank you for being so gracious and for being willing to listen, and I repent in dust and ashes for automatically lumping you in with the pastor who told me to get him a cup of coffee last week or the guy who told the young woman I was mentoring that her dream of being a youth pastor wasn’t biblical. I don’t know you, so my assumption was unfair, and I’m sorry.

  • that was a healthy dose of conversation, ending impressively in peace.
    on the lack of men: the same issue is evident in our camping ministry. we recently finished selecting staff for the summer. we swam through piles of female applicants and we keep asking ourselves where the guys are.

  • Thank you for listening, Andrew. I also appreciate your sharing. If perhaps we can learn to listen to each other, all the pieces might fall into place so easily that it would surprise us. And the kingdom would be so much closer to being here and now.

  • On the mission field where I work, I am very close to a church planting team that is made up of all single women. (This is a recent development, by the way…) There is an unspoken assumption now among many others in their organization that they will never be able to plant a church.
    And yes, I agree with you, that the ratio is about 7-1 female-male here. Something I’ve NEVER gotten. One reason I heard from a single male aquaintence was that he wanted to get married before he went to the mission field. My immediate thought was “If you want to get married, by all means GO to the mission field! There, you’ll find oodles of fantastic, committed, gifted, passionate, single women (who are also even called to missions!) Just GO!”
    Why don’t they go? Fear, perhaps? Perhaps they are intimidated by gifted women (many of whom indeed go overseas because their gifts are not recognized in the American church). Who knows. It’s still a mystery to me, after 7 years (and still single) on the mission field.

  • Thank you Andrew for standing and letting the heat roll on over you! You have shown real love in sharing your story, and your life and love of God, with so many.
    Good point about the urban poor. There are all kinds of marginalized people in the world, male and female. It’s hard to go out and minister to them; it’s easy to sit at my screen and write. I have agonized about this more than once.
    And age discrimination! I’ve seen that one too. But I won’t get started; you say it much better.
    If you want specific stories about women who have been hindered in ministry, as well as who have overcome, get in touch with someone at Christians for Biblical Equality – http://www.cbeinternational.org.
    God bless you, Andrew.
    dana ames

  • Andrew, I tried to answer your five questions, but it made a very long post, so I put it in my blog–titled it “A Tall Skinny Kiwi Steps In It”.
    Sorry you had to take the heat and automatically get lumped in with the sexist crowd. I see that wasn’t your intent. Gives you some indication of how deep the hurt actually runs, though, doesn’t it?

  • Although I am thankful for women in leading in the church, they have been doing that for years you know, I am in need of more boys taking their faith seriously and lead at home, at church, anywhere. As you say earlier, where are the boys with leadership, servant, apostolic, prophetic gifts and from diverse bkds, Cambodian, African American, Latinos (context – Long Beach, CA)? That’s part of my pursuit.

  • I am very much inclined to believe that no-one has the right to leadership, but God sees our hearts and knows those that are open and humble before him. As long as He chooses those set aside to serve in leadership I don’t have a problem.

  • I am new to the discussion, but I wanted to add a small contribution. Admittedly I am not from an evangelical tradition, but growing up mainline Methodist in the deep south, I always assumed that more women went into missions because there was little acceptance of them or encouragement for them to become elders of churches. Missions was their opportunity to lead and shine in ministry. Your experiences may be different, however.
    Anna

  • Outstanding words, Andrew. These are “insightful and gracious comments” from both men and women. I’m glad to see reconciliation and understanding come out of this!

  • Cause I’m a Woman (say it again)

    I have noticed an increasing awareness of the lack of women’s presence in: blogs about church and religious issues, articles about postmodern christianity, websites about church planting and unconventional churches, etc. Even among UU blogs-which is su…

  • I may be totally out to lunch on this, but I believe that the reason that women outnumber men in almost every category in church service is simply that they are much more sensitive to things Spiritual than are the men.
    I do not mean this to be in any way derogatory or a challenge in the battle of the sexes, however historically men were raised to be the provider, while women were raised to be the servers. Thankfully, that is changing, but men still seem to be pre-occupied with the “providing for the family” thing, whereas women tend to be so much more able to see outside their own worlds and take notice of the circumstances of those around them.
    As a volunteer in a home for the elderly, I noticed that more women became invloved than men. When our youth group visited the patients in a hospital as a form of outreach, the same held true.
    Let’s face it. Women are wired differently than men are. They are much more capable than men of keeping it all together, and are much more adept at multi-tasking than we. Although I don’t want to be perceived as over-generalizing, it has been my experience that men cannot walk and chew gum at the same time!
    I have nothing but the greatest admiration for woman in general, and my wife in particular. Where would we be without them?

  • Andrew, I just tuned into the firestorm you started! Must say, I’m surprised as well. I’ve written a response on my blog http://www.emergingecclsiology.com, but I wanted to leave you a comment and say that I wouldn’t have taken your earlier post as an offense. I do think that you are in an unusual context where women are empowered (i.e. missions) but that has always been the case… It’s actually a weird form of sexism and racism combined where women aren’t capable of teaching grown white men, but are capable of teaching foreigners…
    But that’s a discussion for another day. I want to say I’m incredibly impressed by your responses and you’ve been far more patient with this then I would have been. The term “girls” is perfectly acceptable to use when referring to females of the age you did. The women who responded to it as they did must not have read past the title on your second point.
    Before I get hate mail from other women for saying that, read my post on my blog. Then if you still want to send me hate mail, go ahead, but at least read my whole point on that.

  • Adventures in missing the point

    I’ve just caught up with Andrew Jones’ follow-up post to this post on girls.
    In some ways Andrews humble reply did not need to be written. Perhaps the saga is a lesson to those who misinterpreted what Andrew was saying, but took offence and went …

  • In this debate and other blog sagas, I have learned more from the ‘mistakes’that from the ‘sucesses’. I love it that we can do this with each other. To everyone, thanks for sharing and taking the risk to express your real thoughts.

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